As a Navy veteran, David Cooper knows what it’s like to spend months away from family and friends. That’s exactly why he has spent the last three years handcrafting wooden pens for soldiers who are serving overseas.
“I know what it’s like to go overseas and be alone, be gone for six months at a time, so I come out and donate a few hours of my time, which is nothing, considering how much they do,” he said before turning a couple of pieces of wood into smooth, round pen casings.
Cooper, of Elizabethton, spent six years in the Navy from 1975 to 1979 and again from 1981 to 1983 with the USS Kitty Hawk. He has been a member of the Tri-Cities Wood Turners Club for three years and has spent much of his time at Woodcraft on Boones Creek Road making the pens for soldiers as part of the store’s “Turn for Troops” program. It’s a program that has sent more than 62,000 customized pens to men and women of the armed forces since it began in Woodcraft stores nationwide in 2004.
Having gone through what the life of a soldier is like, Cooper said it’s always nice to get something from someone when stationed overseas, even if it’s something as small as a pen.
“It’s a big thing when you’re away from home and you have nothing else and that’s really special to you and it’s come from home or just here in the States somewhere,” he said.
After sending some pens to troops last year, Cooper received a letter from a soldier who was serving overseas, thanking him for taking the time to make and send the pen and for remembering the soldiers who serve. Since receiving that letter, Cooper has carried the letter wherever he goes in his briefcase.
Woodcraft in Johnson City sends about 300 pens a year to troops deployed overseas and recovering in military hospitals, according to Jerry Lovegrove, who operates the store with his wife, Beverly.
“It’s just a great way to contribute to the troops and we’re providing them something to write home with the ink pen, so they have no excuse not to write home,” he said.
The store hosts several pen-turning nights in July and continues making pens before mailing them off in time for Veterans Day in November.
Lovegrove said the public is welcome to come by during one of the pen-turning sessions and make their own pens for the troops.
For more information on the pen-turning at Woodcraft, call 282-9973.